Wednesday, 13 June 2018

The Town Mill, Lyme Regis, Dorset

The original watermill dates from 1340 and, along with the surrounding derelict buildings, was restored by the towns people. The complex houses various small businesses and is now a tourist attraction.  However, the mill itself is a working one which produces flour, and as such does not have that 'tarted up' look of a heritage endeavour. The interior is quite rough and ready, with undressed stone walls, exposed wooden ceiling trusses and cobwebs hanging from beams and in the windows. Just my kind of place!

The mill consists of three floors; the Meal Floor at ground level, the Stone Floor next up and the Sack Floor on the top. The Meal Floor houses the waterwheel as well as the machinery and gearing to power the millstones. The Pitwheel, painted red, can just about be seen on the left in the photo below. It is used to turn the power from the waterwheel to the vertical shaft, thereby transferring the power to the rest of the mill machinery. 

The Stone Floor, on the second floor, houses the mill stones for grinding the grain to make the flour, along with the hoppers which deliver the grain to be ground. The photo below shows the runner which turns at up to 100 revolutions per minute.

Below that can be seen the top of the waterwheel, which was made in 1878 and was procurred to replace the original one, which was removed in the 1930s when mill production became uneconomical. 

The top floor is the Sack Floor, where the grain is stored and the sacks can be hoisted between the floors.

It is also on this floor that a wonderful scale model of the mill can be seen.

The louvres were opened or shut in order to regulate the flow of air to keep the grain dry and stable.

The water power comes from the River Lym, part of which is directed into a separate mill race.

As well as using water to power the mill, a micro hydro-electric system has also been installed. This not only facilitates efficient usage for all the electricity used in the mill, but also generates enough power for some to be sold to the National Grid.

And finally, there's a lovely quiet in the Miller's Garden, which was designed to emulate a 17th century garden. Surrounding a central crab apple tree are four raised beds, each containing separate plantings; one of herbs, one of fruit & flowers, one of vegetables and the fourth bed of medicinal plants, using the species that the miller and his wife may have used where possible.

Blackbury Castle/Camp, Southleigh, Nr Seaton, Devon

This delightful and important prehistoric site is an Iron Age hillfort with high ramparts, an unusual entrance facing the southern slopes, and featuring a triangular earthwork (known as the Barbican) to screen the gates.

The above photo shows the later, modern eastern entrance leading from the car park, and is a popular place for locals to enjoy a walk. Now a lovely woodland comprising birch and beech trees...with swathes of bluebells in the spring...the enclosures and layout of defensive banks are still very much discernable.

Excavation in 1952-54 showed evidence that the main gate had been an imposing structure with the rounded rampart ends projected forward and built up with flint nodules. These were retained by a timber palisade and deep post holes indicated a gate which probably also had a bridge to link them. 

Views of the Southern entrance and Barbican from inside the ramparts.

A second gateway was situated at the entrance to the Barbican, and the embanked passageway had a compartment on either side. The post holes to a rectilinear hut was discovered in the interior, along with a nearby cooking pit. Other remains included iron slag, whetstones and spindle whorls as well as 1,200 sling stones. Pottery found included Glastonbury ware, as well as other iron age ware, indicating that the site was in use from the early 3rd century BC onwards, possibly by a cattle farming community; the compartments either side of the Barbican used as stock pens.

Outer views of the Southern entrance and Barbican, above. Back inside the ramparts and looking towards the Northern entrance, below.

Near to the Northern ramparts is this rather odd looking tree, which appears to have been partially felled and carved. Below are circles made of stones and the remains of a fire can be seen within the futhermost one. 

And talking of oddities, I came across a rather scary account of something that happened to a Mr Terry Bridlington in 1969. The story is too long to include here, but suffice to say it appeared to have been caused by a site guardian, or Genius Loci, as logs were rained down near him in order to scare him off...with no-one else being there at all. The full story is fascinating, well worth a read, and can be read here...

The original name was Blackbury Castle, but was later changed to Blackbury Camp on the brown monument signpost. Some of us locals weren't too happy about that and the term castle is still often used. I suspect it was thought that a mediaeval castle building might be expected from the term, but I can't help wondering whether that stops anyone from thinking it might be a campsite! ;) 

Being a local, I've been to Blackbury Castle several times, usually with friends during Spring when the whole area is carpeted with beautiful blue swathes of bluebells. However, these photos were taken during a visit in September 2008 when I walked around the ramparts in a more consistent manner. Whatever the season, the trees inside the fort always seem to stand out in stark contrast to the soft green of the grass, helping to create an otherwordly atmosphere. It truly is a magical place.